Tag Archives: Mass.
At least two Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning developers have ended up at BioWare as leads on the next Mass Effect, according to their LinkedIn Profiles. Colin Campbell, former lead world designer at Big Huge Games, and Ian Frazier, former lead designer, are listed with the new series lead BioWare Montreal, Kotaku discovered.
Campbell and Frazier give their current positions as lead level designer and lead gameplay designer, respectively. After the painful bankruptcy of Big Huge Games and 38 Studios, they and many others moved on to Epic Games’ Impossible Studios to work on Infinity Blade: Dungeons.
Epic Games shut Impossible down just half a year after its creation. With Campbell and Frazier’s hiring at BioWare Montreal, it looks like at least some of the beleaguered Big Huge developers have finally found a steady home.
Commander Shepard leads a serious life. The galaxy is facing a major threat, and the disparate races that inhabit it need an attitude adjustment if they’re all going to survive. Juggling these issues has afforded the commander precious little time to catch his breath. And now, here at the end, it’s finally time for a break.
In this final piece of single-player downloadable content for Mass Effect 3, the battle-weary Commander Shepard is plucked from the world of galactic warfare and diplomatic intrigue and dropped into a most unfamiliar setting: a fun evening with friends. For one long night, the war is put on hold, and everyone is invited to reflect on how far they’ve come.
That’s not to say this hefty, four-gigabyte update won’t offer plenty of combat. In fact, you could almost draw a line down the center of this release. The first half deals with Shepard overcoming a dangerous new threat while on shore leave. Once that is resolved, the second half is strictly person-to-person (or person-to-alien) interactions.
This new threat is a private military corporation that is, frankly, a less-capable version of Cerberus. It employs a few new tricks, such as shield-detonating kamikaze drones and cluster grenades, but mostly it just gets mocked–mercilessly–by you and your squadmates. After the corporation makes an assassination attempt on Shepard, friends from past and present Mass Effect games descend upon it. Soon you find yourself fighting side by side by side with your entire team in unison, all of whom are hurling insults and exchanging friendly banter among the carnage.
The quest to stop these anti-Shepard militants is both challenging and humorous, with a surprise twist straight out of a cheesy sci-fi movie, but that won’t be what you remember from this DLC. The combat is just a vehicle to get the band back together and reconnect atop the corpses of your enemies. The memories come when you’re back at your fancy, new apartment planning for one massive party with the entire crew. That’s when the tone of this story takes a dramatic shift to the comedic.
In addition to being the last piece of single-player DLC for the series, Citadel is the most humorous. Every little in-joke, callback, and reference the writers could work in, they did. Remember when Garrus would always talk about calibrations, or when everyone had to ride those elevators in the Citadel, or when Traynor made that comment about her fancy toothbrush? There’s a joke for each of those–and so many more!
While these quips are great for a laugh, those looking for a bit more narrative substance will be left wanting. Maybe you don’t care about Kaidan’s cooking or EDI’s taste in automobiles. If these rampant attempts at fan service don’t strike a chord, you’re simply out of luck. Developer BioWare’s signature, grandiose storytelling takes a backseat here to simpler, one-off wisecracks. And a lot of dancing.
Once the dust has settled and the party is over, there is still more to do at the Silversun Strip: a new area of the Citadel and the setting for most of this DLC. There are plenty of disposable games at the casino and arcade, but most of your time will likely be spent at the battle simulator. This virtual reality game pits Shepard against waves of enemies, similar to ME3′s multiplayer mode. Difficulty modifiers, such as less-effective shields or no medi-gel, help mix up the fun, but the most exciting feature is the unlockable teammates. Even if it’s just for this mode, it’s nice to fight alongside Jack, Samara, Wrex, and the others again.
Mass Effect 3: Citadel, swan song of the series, casts Shepard and friends off on one last comedic adventure, albeit in very shallow waters. It is an acknowledgment of all the fans out there who have fought alongside Normandy’s crew across three games and six years. The old crew is brought together, but presented in a very different light. If you’ve helped Shepard endure from Eden Prime all the way to the Catalyst’s chamber, then you’ll have plenty to laugh about in Citadel.
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Efforts to cull a sprawling population of wild boar in Belgium’s northern forests met with limited results this week after a party of 200 hunters managed to kill only one animal.
The hunt was organized on Monday by local wildlife officials in a northern forest near the town of Postel, where several road accidents have been linked to wild boar.
Hunters spotted groups of about 60 animals but apart from the one animal killed, all the others slipped away with some possibly fleeing across the Dutch border, a spokesman said.
“One group also contained too many young animals and we decided not to shoot on that group,” said Dirk Bogaert, spokesman for the Flemish Agency of Nature and Forestry.
The animal shot would be divided among the hunters, the agency said in a statement.
FRIDAY Dec. 21, 2012 — The recent rash of mass shootings is raising pointed questions about why America is experiencing such carnage. And, while the answers are complex, policymakers are capitalizing on public fervor over last week’s massacre in Newtown, Conn., to muster support for new initiatives to prevent future tragedies.
President Barack Obama on Wednesday announced plans to revisit the nation’s gun and mental health laws, tapping Vice President Joseph Biden to lead an effort to bring “concrete proposals” to the table for quick action in January. In part, the president supports reinstating the ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition cartridges. These prohibitions expired in 2004 with the sunset of the 10-year-old Federal Assault Weapons Ban.
In the past two years alone, killing sprees have claimed dozens of lives and left many injured and disabled:
- Six perished and 13 were injured in front of a Tucson, Ariz., grocery store in January 2011 when a lone gunman, wielding a legally obtained handgun, sprayed the crowd with bullets and, in an assassination attempt, shot former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in the head, nearly taking her life.
- Five students at Chardon High School in Ohio sustained gunshot wounds this February and three of them died at the hands of the accused 17-year-old gunman who allegedly chose his victims at random. The murder weapon was a handgun reportedly stolen from the suspect’s uncle.
- A gunman opened fire in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater in July, killing 12 and injuring dozens more. The alleged 24-year-old shooter had legally obtained four weapons, including a semi-automatic assault rifle used during the attack.
- A gunman killed six and wounded four in August at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis., before a police officer shot and killed the 40-year-old suspect at the scene. The shooter legally purchased the semi-automatic handgun and ammunition used in the attack.
The latest tragedy, the Dec. 14 massacre of 20 young schoolchildren and six educators at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school, has stunned the nation, inciting a call to action.
And as policymakers grapple for answers, experts point to personal and societal problems that could be underpinning these deadly events.
“It’s not one factor,” explained Jeffrey Swanson, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, N.C. “I think it’s almost impossible to predict who would do a thing like this, in advance,” he added.
Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary now ranks as the second deadliest school shooting in the United States, after the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre, which claimed 32 lives. Sandy Hook’s death toll eclipses the carnage that shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold inflicted upon 13 classmates in the infamous 1999 Columbine High School rampage.
School shootings not unique to the United States
Yet school-based shootings are not a uniquely American phenomenon. Even with Europe’s tougher gun laws, Finland, France, Germany and Norway have all experienced atrocities in the past decade. Mass school-based shootings at two German schools in 2002 and 2009 claimed a total of 31 victims.
Despite the public outcry spurred by the killings, the United States is not becoming an increasingly homicidal nation. The reality is the U.S. murder rate, at least through last year, has been on a downward slope. The Federal Bureau of Investigation reports a steady decline in total homicides, from 14,990 in 2006 to 12,664 in 2011.
“We are still a relatively safe country and certainly by historical standards, even with these mass killings, our homicide rates are lower now than they were in the ’80s. So we do need to keep this in perspective,” said James Hawdon, professor of sociology and director of the Center for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.
Still, guns figure prominently in the nation’s murder rate. From 2006 to 2011, the percentage of homicides involving some type of firearm remained almost unchanged over the period, at 68 percent, according to FBI data.
And the firearm death rate in the United States is nearly 6.5 times higher than Canada’s rate of just 0.5 per 100,000 people, the United Nations reports.
“Our peer countries regulate the guns . . . and they tend to have far lower homicide rates than we do,” said Duke’s Swanson.
Australia in 1996 enacted a gun buyback program in response to a massacre in Tasmania that left 35 dead. The result: Gun-related homicides declined from 0.57 per 100,000 people in 1996 to 0.1 per 100,000 people in 2009, according to GunPolicy.org.
In Japan, known for its restrictive gun-control laws, the total number of guns held by civilians is estimated to be 710,000, or 0.6 firearms per 100 people, according to data compiled by GunPolicy.org. In the United States, it’s 270 million total guns, or 88.8 firearms per 100 people.
People who study violent behavior point to the widespread availability of guns in America, particularly assault weapons like the ones used in Newtown, Conn., that are designed to discharge multiple rounds of ammunition, as a factor in crimes involving multiple casualties.
“There just happens to be very lethal methods available out there,” said Thomas Bowers, associate professor of psychology at Pennsylvania State University, Harrisburg.
Gun enthusiasts, however, argue that even the best gun control laws can’t stop a person from committing a heinous act. Connecticut laws restricting the sale, ownership and use of guns are considered among the most stringent in the nation.
“None of these bans was efficacious in keeping Adam Lanza [the Newtown school shooter] from killing 20 children,” said Michael Hammond, legislative counsel to the Gun Owners of America in Springfield, Va.
Police said Lanza used guns — a semi-automatic rifle and two handguns — that belonged to his mother, who was found dead in their home.
The National Rifle Association broke its silence on the Newtown tragedy on Wednesday with a statement explaining that “we have given time for mourning, prayer and a full investigation of the facts before commenting.” The Washington, D.C.-based gun lobby announced plans for a “major news conference” on Friday.
Professing not to be a gun control fanatic, Christopher Ferguson, associate professor and chair of the department of psychology and communication at Texas A&M University in Laredo, believes gun access is part of the problem. “We may be getting to a point where we need to sit down and talk about what we can do to make things a little safer,” he said.
The problem isn’t just guns, experts say
Guns are only part of the equation, Ferguson said. There’s also a need to improve the nation’s mental health system so that individuals at risk get the help they need.
While no firm profile of school shooters has emerged, Ferguson said some common characteristics include a long history of anti-social traits, mental health problems such as depression or psychosis, and the perception that others are to blame for their problems, that “society didn’t give me a chance.”
A 2007 report commissioned by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found many gaps in the mental health system, “including a critical shortage of all child and adolescent providers,” Dr. Howard Liu, medical director of the Behavioral Health Education Center of Nebraska at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, told HealthDay.
In the report, the federal government projected a need for 12,624 child and adolescent psychiatrists by 2020, vastly exceeding the projected supply of 8,312. The shortage of trained mental health providers is particularly acute in rural and low-income areas.
Could the way Americans live and raise children today also play a role in triggering violent behavior?
Many people speculate that violent video games predispose kids to aggressive and dangerous behavior. Ferguson’s research indicates that that’s not true. In a laboratory setting, short-term exposure to violent videos neither increased nor decreased aggression, while long-term exposure was associated with reduced hostile feelings and depression following a stressful task, one study found.
What’s more, Ferguson said, “Video games are not a commonality among school shooters.”
Dale Yeager, a criminal behavioral analyst and CEO of SERAPH, a Berwyn, Pa.-based legal, liability and security consulting firm, believes that dysfunction in families — from broken marriages to a “pop psychology” culture that coddles kids instead of teaching right from wrong — is at the root of the problem.
“What happens is mommy or daddy or both are not taking care of their issues and that filters down to the children,” he said.
As people try to make sense of the latest tragic events, Virginia Tech’s Hawdon offers this advice: “Really the way that we can best control crime and best reduce violence is by looking out for each other, by having a community where people know each other, people are involved in each other’s lives to the point where they can say, ‘You seem to be having difficulties right now’ and ‘Can I help?’”
There’s more on mental health at the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Posted: December 2012
Aria T’Loak once presided over the Omega space station, where exotic dancers entertained and enthralled onlookers, and outlaws trafficked drugs and weapons without the threat of government scrutiny. In Mass Effect 3: Omega, Aria is on the lam, ousted from her position as the station’s self-appointed dictator by the pro-human organization called Cerberus. But Aria misses home–and craves the power she once so flagrantly flaunted. And now it’s time to return to the Terminus Systems to regain her lost rule.
Aria’s convictions are compelling; if only the downloadable add-on in which she prominently figures were equally tenacious. Omega disappointingly leaves behind the Mass Effect series’ narrative complexity in favor of pistols and profanities, and replaces its moving dialogue with sci-fi military chatter. You spend the majority of the time shooting guns as Commander Shepard, often with Aria at your side providing support, stopping for a few moments so that your companion might update the mission objective and remind you how badass she is before you once again peer down the scope of your battle rifle.
Granted, Omega’s action is quite good, and the environments do a great job of communicating a sense of “bigness” that the series’ level design sometimes lacks. You catch glimpses of aerial battles raging among the station’s cylindrical spires and reddened skyways, and dropships enter from above as if part of a larger assault. Even when industrial-looking zones threaten to blend together, visual touches like a force field’s swirling red glow, and Aria’s forceful biotic eruptions, provide color and character. Open combat environments encourage you to stay on the move, and troopers and centurions frequently flank you, forcing you into the open–and possibly into view of a hulking atlas. New enemies like the rampart mech are particularly aggressive, and that aggressiveness makes the final combat sequence an enjoyable challenge.
Omega’s primary problem is that it forgets that what makes Mass Effect 3 special isn’t the shooting itself–it’s that you care about why you are shooting in the first place. Aria has always been an intriguing figure, and depending on your responses to her in dialogue, you might find that Commander Shepard has more in common with her than you once realized. But whenever Aria gets a chance to shine, BioWare drops the ball, reducing her to a petulant, potty-mouthed sociopath. The series has never fully shied from strong language, and Jack had her share of profane moments. But those moments punctuated that character’s lingering insecurities and tough-love leadership qualities, whereas Aria’s F-bombs during combat are unnecessary and grow repetitive.
Aria has a few tough-love moments of her own, but in a series that explores complex personalities, she is disappointingly one-note. When she finally gains the opportunity to encourage her subjects with a rousing speech, glitches take over, with the pirate queen teleporting and pirouetting as if the laws of physics and common sense no longer apply. The shallow characterizations continue with Omega’s other primary personality, a female Turian called Nyreen. She and Aria have a complicated past–one that could have used some development. Unfortunately, Nyreen has a limited amount of screen time, which is a shame, because she provides a moral balance to Aria’s consistent egotism.
The character roster is rounded out with a villain who fits snugly into the “guys with accents are evil” category and who has too little screen time to make much of an impact. In that sense, he personifies Omega at large: lacking impact. The content is purely self-contained, in contrast to Mass Effect 2′s wonderful add-ons, which were pleasantly inserted into the adventure at large. Once you finish Omega, the galaxy doesn’t care, which is just as well, since you don’t make any substantial decisions anyway. You can’t return to the space station, you gain no crew members or Normandy guests, and Aria is deposited back on the Citadel–a bizarre circumstance fully at odds with her character arc.
What’s left is all that combat, which seems to go on interminably with too little to break it up. The action is good at least, with level designs and enemy behavior that encourage you to do more than take cover in one safe spot and blast bullets and biotics until no foe is left standing. But you do all that fighting without ever feeling connected to what you’re fighting for–and you do it without your trusted friends at your side. Shepard even quips that seeking out a crack squad for a vital mission is an all-too-familiar goal. And you know there are tough times ahead when even Shepard acknowledges the repetition to come.